Why the Nonprofiteer Doesn’t Practice Law Anymore

Yesterday’s New York Times reported a new study showing nonwhite lawyers make partner at major law firms less frequently than white lawyers (pause for gasp of shock) and postulating that the problem is the firms’ willingness to hire nonwhite lawyers with lower grades.  Naturally this has given ammunition to people who want to know what all those uppity people of color are doing in elite institutions to begin with.

But buried halfway down in the article is the observation that women mysteriously also make partner less frequently than men, despite having (on average) higher grades.  Oh, yeah, says the new study’s author, but that’s because they want to stay home with their children.

Ah, lawyers, straining at gnats and swallowing elephants.  God forbid they should acknowledge that a systematic failure to do well of people on both ends of the grade spectrum most likely means that grades are irrelevant to success–something anyone who’s not a law professor could have figured out without a research grant.  Heaven forfend they should admit that a systematic failure of people whose common characteristic is that they’ve been excluded and belittled most likely means that exclusion and belittlement continue, and continue to have their effect. 

No, it’s much easier to decide that brown people’s grades aren’t good enough and girl people’s grades are too good, but the grades of white boys are (in the words of the immortal Goldilocks) just right. 

Back before the glaciers melted, the Nonprofiteer served a summer clerkship at an old-line Irish Catholic law firm in Chicago, which segregates its bar nearly as effectively as its neighborhoods.  Her bosses found her loud and pushy and didn’t offer her a permanent job.  Asked to evaluate the experience by her law school’s placement office, she summoned her considerable reserves of tact and wrote, "[Firm Name Omitted to Protect the Guilty] doesn’t have to refuse to hire women or Jews; it just makes them so uncomfortable that they leave under their own steam." 

Plus ca change.

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